Thursday, September 8, 2016

Four Little Words

As a fledgling writer, I received a rejection of a submission to a magazine. I was disappointed but encouraged to keep trying. The editor had written. "You have a way with words!" I tried again, and he published several of my articles.
I have also come to understand the importance of my words as a parent and a teacher.

Years ago, I came across the story of a young boy, Malcolm, who was terribly insecure and shy. He had few friends and no self-confidence.

His high school English class had been reading To Kill a Mocking Bird. Then the teacher asked the students to write their own chapter that would follow the last chapter of the novel.

Malcolm wrote his chapter and handed it in. More than 30 years later, he could not recall anything special he had written or even what grade his teacher had given him, but he never forgot the four words she wrote in the margin of his paper: "This is good writing."

Those four words changed his life.

Until he read those words, he had no sense of identity and no idea what he would do with his life. After reading those four little words, he went home and wrote a short story, something he had always dreamed of doing but never believed he could do.

That year, he wrote many short stories and always showed them to his teacher to evaluate. Soon, he was named co-editor of his high school newspaper. His confidence grew, and he became a successful professional writer. Malcolm is convinced that none of this would have happened had that teacher not written those four words of encouragement on his paper.

Words can change a life. Words like "You're stupid!" or "Can't you do anything right?" can echo and re-echo in our minds and become self-fulfilling prophecies. So can positive affirmations.

A word fitly spoken is very precious indeed!

How would our family, friends, and coworkers describe our words?

Do our words encourage or put down?

Do we constantly criticize those under our authority without ever praising them?

Would the lasting echoes of our words be to encourage others to be more than they thought they could be--or less?

When we must give criticism, do we couch it liberally in praise?

The Apostle Paul admonished the Ephesians to not "let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs" (4:29, NIV).

Today, let's take a hard listen to our words and ask the Lord to help us to speak only words that are pleasing to Him and a blessing to other.

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